Best Innovations For Singles

SOLO 53 | Innovations For Singles


Welcome to the last episode of a three-episode series that examines Singles in the Marketplace. Peter McGraw invites Shane Mauss to talk about the best innovations for singles. No spoilers here, but you will see a theme emerge where the innovation they discuss are related to freedom, mobility, and an escape from the family unit. Moreover, what becomes evident is that these innovations also help singles pursue a diverse set of experiences – to flourish by taking advantage of the time, resources, and freedom that accompanies being single.

There are obvious innovations related to sex, but we leave them to the bonus material. Note: bonus material is now only available to the community. You can apply to be part of the Solo community on the Solo page at PeterMcGraw.org

Listen to Episode #53 here


Best Innovations For Singles

This is the last episode of a three-episode series that examined singles in the marketplace. I invited back Shane Mauss to talk about the best innovations for singles. I won’t give them away here, but you’ll see a theme emerge where the innovations we discuss are related to freedom, mobility and escape from the family unit. However, as we talk, what becomes evident is that these innovations also help singles pursue a diverse set of experiences to flourish by taking advantage of the time, resources, and freedom that accompany single life. There’s one set of obvious innovations, but we leave them to the bonus material where we have a serious conversation about sex-related inventions. The bonus material is only available to the Solo community. You can apply to be part of that Solo community at PeterMcGraw.org on the Solo page. I hope you enjoy the episode. Let’s get started.

Our return guest is Shane Mauss. Shane is a professional comedian who specializes in comedy about science. He hosts the science podcast, Here We Are, and you can find him in the documentary film, Psychonautics. You may remember him from the Solo Trip episode on psychedelics or the Solos, Sex, and Evolution episode. Shane is also a special contributor to my new book, Shtick to Business, which is enough to qualify him to join us. Welcome back. This is the third installment of a series on singles in the marketplace. In the first one, I spoke to a sociologist and demographer about the rise of single.

Here’s a quick overview of this. There are 128 million singles in the United States. That’s 51% of the adult population, 28% of households in the United States have one person. That percentage is upwards of 50% in some European cities like Stockholm, for example. One of the things that’s striking, not just about the growth of singles but the growth of solos, that is people living alone, is that it’s been exponential. It looks like a hockey stick, and there’s a variety of reasons in that episode that that has happened. We’re going to talk about some of the underlying reasons here. The second episode is a conversation with an entrepreneur, Julie Novelli, and we talk about opportunities to sell to singles. This episode, which is focused on the best innovations for singles is coming out on November 11th, 2020. Do you know what day that is, Shane?

No, I have no idea. When you asked me that, did you think that I would know?

No, I didn’t think you would. It is Single’s Day, which is the biggest shopping event in the world. It happens every November 11th. It was started in the 1990s as an unofficial celebration of being single by Chinese university students. The date was selected 11/11 because fittingly it’s full of ones, symbolizing being solo. The marketplace is slowly, and especially in Asia, recognizing the singles is a viable market rather than the family unit, as you might imagine. We are here talk about some of the innovations that help us the Solo rise to the levels that we are at now. You and I have both made a list of some of our ideas, some of them are inventions, but I liked using this term innovation because not all of them are tangible products so I wanted a broader perspective. The first thing to say is that it’s never been better to be single in world history.

It would be impossible to have a better time. Most of human history was groups of a tribe. Have you heard of the Dunbar number?

Is that over 110 or 150? 

If I had to guess, I would say it’s about 170. It’s an estimation of the number of people that you can know well in your given environment. That’s based on your brain-shaped off over many generations would have needed to maybe now 170. I’m sure that was more capacity than anyone was ever going to need.

You’ve dated 170 people. 

People have 170 Facebook friends and they feel like a failure or something for not having more connections or whatever.

This idea of Dunbar number is an interesting one because it suggested how limited we were in terms of who we engaged with, close family, a community, a small village. At that point, it starts to break away where it’s not possible to know everyone. Now we’ve had this interesting thing where it is possible because we have an ability to track people digitally. Growing up, I had a certain number of phone numbers memorized and I had a number of phone numbers in a little black book. If someone changed their phone number, you lost touch with them, they’re gone. Now, we have Facebook, Instagram, email and all these things where not only you do have a digital record of people dating all the way back to your childhood, where you can reach back to those people. You also have the ability to contact people in multiple ways. You and I communicate via phone, email, text, and then see each other in-person. We have four different ways even on Twitter and Live. 

Another amazing thing is you can subscribe to a version of someone that you want. You can subscribe to an Instagram, Twitter, Facebook version of Pete, all of them or none of them at all. What do we even do with all of that? The other interesting thing about the Dunbar number is the potential downside. Let’s say you truly have the mental capacity to get to know well and not only that, but maybe a yearning to know well around that number of people. You have these ideas of status hijacked by modern media, movies, and everything else. Like George Clooney and your Dunbar, you have a cousin that got bumped out who you could talk to and hang out with because we needed room for George Clooney in here. How many things in that Dunbar number are actors or even fictional characters?

I have to say that underlying research is beyond my expertise. 

That won’t stop me from talking about anything.

Something to be taken away from this essentially though is the lesson is not that there’s some optimal number of people that we can track because we have these other technological reasons and ways to track them. That number may go up depending on our development. In college, that number may go up. We know that when people get married and have children, that number goes way down. It expands and contracts. One of the things that are underlying this, and this is perfect leaping off point to these best innovations, the things that helped give rise to single living is that we were reliant on the community for so long as human beings. Those communities tended to be 100X or lower in number. 

One thing I’ve been thinking about is you talk with any scientists talking about this stuff in this way, I’m more into evolutionary biology and psychology than the average person. I often hear anyone with that background saying like, “Humans are built to be social animals. They’re built to be around people. This is what our past was like.” I don’t know that’s necessarily that our brain was constructed that way or that the environment that our brain was in. It was a necessity within the environment. Depending on how territorial a primate is, it’s dependent on whether they eat vegetation or whether there’s a fruit in their diet because of its vegetation, there’s no vegetation worth fighting over. If there’s a fruit in an environment, there are fruit trees that you want to have a territory and there’s this limited resource. That’s a constraint in an environment that can shape things in all these ways. What’s interesting about our modern environment is it might be that people wanted a lot more alone time than they could ever get in our past environment but how in the world could you do that if you’re in a tribe.

I’m glad that you said that. The issue is it can’t be the case that a hunter-gatherer model of a small number that’s intensely communal is going to be right for everyone. What happened was there were some people who got along swimmingly and loved that and then there was the person who was always in the back of the pack like, “What are they doing back then?” They were trying to get some peace and quiet. I’m going to kick this off with one of my favorites, and it’s the C-word. It’s because this is a word that gets a lot of bad press nowadays, and that is capitalism. Capitalism is an extension of cooperation. It’s another C-word. 

Potentially, decentralized power and choice over assets. Despite whatever your take is on capitalism, you would have to look back at the history of having royalty distribute wealth to you at their will, and having a capitalist stick system is something that absolutely shocked our modern world.

To me, the idea of the invention of money for example, or we should say the invention of barter and trade first. Let’s step back, the idea essentially is that we think about humans being different than animals because of intelligence or language ability. Those aren’t the things that are differentiating. There’s a lot of animals that are quite intelligent. Obviously, other animals can communicate. The ability to cooperate with a stranger, to be able to construct rules and cultural norms that allow two people who have never, ever met before, have no blood lineage are not a part of the same clan to meet, get along and do business is revolutionary. It has speeded this idea of specialization, creation, and exchange that now you can start to then branch out and it forms the foundation of being able to live on your own. If you have the ability to create some form of wealth, some money, then you can use that money with strangers.

It is amazing. There’s a lot of room for improvement.

The other thing, we skipped over a step though, going right from hunter-gatherer to now there was an in-between period that sucked. Especially if you were had a solo orientation and that is agriculture and farming. Talk about a time that’s a tough time to be human.

That’s when the kid pyramid scheme started. I need more kids on this farm so I can throw out more stuff. Now, there are more mouths to feed. We’re going to need a bigger farm and more kids to grow on and on.

It was bad for everyone. Women bore the brunt of it because they were, as you said, turned into baby machines. Their work was excruciating in terms of caring for households and so on. It wasn’t a great time to be a man either. The work was back-breaking and a terrible time to be a child because you were put to work pretty damn early and that work was farm work. It wasn’t the work that you want young children doing, because they’re not expanding their full capacities at that time. It was incredibly risky times because you’re putting all of your eggs in this basket. You had to worry about not only the uncertainty of mother nature but then you had to deal with the uncertainty of those feudal youth boards and robber bandits.

Everything that’s happening, like people with COVID, are like, “These things happen. These are natural.” It’s like, “You packed a bunch of people in an unnatural way. You then fed those people, packed in the food of other things that you’ve packed into it like we’ve created an interesting environment for diseases that simply couldn’t spread in this way in any other conditions.”

The lack of food diversity, a lack of diversity in the work that was being done, a lack of diversity in the investments that are being made, and so life became singular. If you were a loner, if you had a solo mentality, it was hard to make your way because you couldn’t have a farm and you just staff it. The rise of capitalism and cooperation eventually gave way to industrialization and urbanization and both of those things are good for singles. 

It was a rough patch. Fortunately, we got it all figured out, and now we’re fine.

You have worked in a factory. 

I have. My dad has his own countertop business. I used to go with him as a kid doing kitchen installs, and then he got into making countertops. I did that for a few years and we didn’t get along well, but I did it. I worked at a grocery store for a few years as a teenager. I did three months in a crouton factory, almost three years in a furniture factory, nine months in a metal shop, and then a bunch of odds and ends like construction things and weird stuff.

These are all jobs with the exception of the one working with your father that you were essentially doing on your own. You could be living anywhere to do that work. I’m not suggesting it’s the job that you clearly, weren’t thriving in that work because you’re too intellectually curious.

I have a terrible attention span.

However, if you need it to survive, this allows you to escape the farm. 

I’ve had to travel around the world to tell jokes to people. All of this is strange.

These are built on and they’re called revolutions. It’s not an industrial change. It’s the Industrial Revolution. It fundamentally changed the way that we live in. To be clear, there are multiple forms of the industrial revolution. We are in this sort of digital communication version, we’re on the cusp of what people are calling the AI revolution. Along with this industrialization was also urbanization. People moving to cities and moving to new environments to which they live. I’m going to put forth a specific invention that is one of the best inventions for single people and that is the apartment building.

It’s such a great way of cooperating while being separated from everybody. You can share a wall with someone you’ll never meet.

I know some people hate the idea of living in an apartment. They’ve had bad experiences with landlords, roommates, and neighbors and yet 50% of the world’s population lives in cities. The majority of the people living in cities live in apartment buildings.

Never in my entire life have I even considered seriously wanting a house. One day maybe in a way, but I never ever until now had even considered. I’ve always lived in apartments. That’s of the things in my life that I would have changed. I always liked my apartment living.

As a solo, I understand why. One of the nice things about apartments is its low cost. You’re not paying for any extra space that you’re not using, which homes have a lot of that. People have entire rooms that they use three times a year that they’re paying for. They’re paying interest on these things because they’re usually borrowing money in order to do that. Apartment buildings also have communal facilities. They share resources. There’s a gym that multiple people share. There might be a concierge. You couldn’t afford the gym, concierge, and pool on your own.

The simplest things even the idea that I’m able to go and spend 2 or 3 months on the road, which I have many times in my life. I don’t need to worry about a pipe bursting or whatever.

The other thing about our apartment building is safety. We were talking about how hard these earlier times could be, especially for women. One of the things that an apartment building can provide safety. There’s security, someone at the door, key fobs to get up to floors. There’s someone to hear you if you scream. Now you can have the grittiness.

You know those billboards that are like, “If you lived here, you’d be home by now?”


They should instead change their slogan to, “Someone to hear you if you scream.”

You can enjoy the grittiness and the excitement of a city that might have some safety issues, but you have a refuge that you can go to. You have to appreciate this is that they’re economical. You get more for a dollar when you live in an apartment than when you live in a house. For those readers who’ve never owned a home, especially as a solo, I caution you about doing that.

I’m happy to hear you say this, Pete.

The first reason is that singles are more mobile than families. One of the nice things about apartments, I just moved by the way. I moved in one day. People showed up at 8:00 AM and then I had maybe five boxes still to unpack but my life was almost normal again, by the end of the day. It wasn’t as expensive as you might think to get that help. The idea essentially is that apartments allow mobility and houses don’t because houses often have such transactional costs. This came up in the first Financial Freedom with Money Amy episode, where she has a little asterisk about homeownership which is, “If you think you’ll be moving within the next five years, do not buy a home because you need to be in it for five years.”

I’ve never been a homeowner, but I would have to ask myself is, “I want to live in a house. Do I also want the house to be both my hobby and my work?” When I’m like, “What do I want to do to wind down to take a break? What do I do for fun with my money? Do I want to put that into a remodeling and doing things like that and all of the maintenance or go and take a vacation and live in an Airbnb for a month?”

The idea is this, and I’ve done both. I can understand the reader who’s pushing back on this because I understand wanting to be the king.

First off, I don’t like your readers that don’t agree with everything that I have to say. Any readers out there that have a subtle disagreement with any, sorry.

If you want it, I understand why you might have lifestyle reasons for it. You might want the space. There’s a lot of reasons to want it besides fulfilling the American dream, but your point is well taken if you’re going to pay for it. You’re either going to pay for it with extra money, or you’re going to pay for it with your time. That is if you have a lawn, it needs to get cleaned up and cut in some way. If you have gutters, they need to get emptied in some way. You’re either going to pay for it with your sweat equity or are you going to pay for it with your equity?

That’s enough about apartment buildings. I’d like the idea of the communal nest that goes into it in terms of sharing costs and lowering costs because of the fixed costs. I also like independence and I do like your point, which is you turn out the lights, you close the door and you lower the heat. You close the shades, you put enough water in your plants and you can be gone for quite a long time and you’re on your own and you’re mobile. I have one thing to add, and then I’m going to turn it over to you. There’s an extension of apartment buildings and these are nursing homes and assisted living. The invention of those things also allows freedom for singles.

May I also stress like with capitalism, we are in no way implying there is not a whole lot of work to be done when it comes to improving these things.

The people who had bad experiences with apartment buildings, a lot of those problems can be solved. If you’ve ever lived in an apartment building that has thick walls, that takes care of a lot of problems. There are technological advances that can fix and improve some of these things. Some of them are going to be regulatory with things like nursing homes and assisted living. This is the sad thing about life as is often the case money solves a lot of problems. More expensive assisted living, nursing homes, and apartments are better than less expensive ones. What we need to contrast this with is suburban living in the ’60s, which people like to make out to be this wonderful time in American history. All I do is invite you to watch Madman and watch both the women and the men struggle during that time. It’s prosperous, but it’s not clearly one in which people were flourishing.

Am I going to talk about the patriarchy? I’ve been taking an Evolutionary Anthropology course, and we were talking about these groups that studied these hunter-gatherer groups. It seems like in the majority of cases like males and females are exactly equal in the way that one of them can’t tell the other one what to do. Everyone gets to advocate for themselves, but no one gets to be like, “I’m right, because of my gender.” I believe that’s something that happened that came along with agriculture that we’re still cleaning up the mess on. As a guy, we might have figured out how to quick switch and get the upper hand there for a little while.

It allowed for bigger winners and also more losers and guys too, once you could accumulate all this wealth. I saw some graph that was something 45% of hunter-gatherer tribes now are polygamous sometimes. It’s a common thing to happen in these tribes. Not that everyone’s doing it but it’s an acceptable thing that a guy might have multiple wives and everyone fools around a little bit more and something 5% of them has some polyandry, that’s somewhat normal. Usually, it’s a lack of resources and a woman will marry often two brothers. All of that is to further out what humans are existing in now, it’s normal to what we’ve experienced in our lifetime.

The strongest case to be made, and this goes all the way back to what I opened with, which is the human’s ability to cooperate because they can make up their own rules. What happens is those rules get adjusted based upon the environment and context. That is, there is no natural law, there is no one way to do it. We know that humans will change their behavior and rules as things change. The fact that monogamy may rise in status or fall in status as a result of context is not at all surprising.

This is an issue of the science of animals in captivity and understanding how much can we infer from, how much does inductive reasoning work when it’s this completely opposite novel environment. Are we going to put aside the elephants in the room and focus on the more subtle creative ideas?

There are some obvious ones that you’re thinking about. For the readers, we’re going to do some bonus material about all the sex stuff.

I’m happy to brush over some of that too and give people a preview.

There is one thing that’s related to sex so that we have to address them. What do you think that is?

It’s birth control. To me, it’s the single greatest invention in humans. Speaking of things that I hope we improve upon, I wish there was male birth control, not a vasectomy, a temporary. You could go off of it and be fertile again when you so choose to procreate. I think that would be amazing. Without doing a single bit of research, I believe that there was some development of that and there were some mild side effects, like nothing compared to what a lot of females have to deal with that men were like, “No, we’re not doing it.” Maybe things are changing, especially with more females in science. As someone who has, for whatever reason, not gotten a vasectomy and should, I would absolutely take a male birth control tomorrow if I had one.

Talk me through your logic though about why this makes your list and why it’s on the top of your list.

This is going back to our fruit trees, social life is built to be this social, or was it a part of the environment and birth control is one of those things where it didn’t matter if you didn’t want kids in an ancestral environment. What were you going to do, never have sex in your life? Kids are incredibly costly. It makes sense to me that we would have a psychological framework that would make us much in the way sex feels good so that will reproduce. I would think that psychologically we would intuitively understand some costs of offspring and it’s those costs would have been enough to maybe make you forego or pursuing a new relationship or once you have four kids, you’re like, “Enough already. I’m not going to use it anymore.” All of a sudden, you can have sex and not have kids as a result of it. That changes everything.

First of all, imagine as a woman being in an unhealthy relationship. Closely related to birth control would the opportunity to divorce. What we’re talking about here is that birth control, in the same way that money can be a path to independence. Birth control is a path to independence.

Hunter-gatherer tribes, a lot of them have both marriage and divorce is very common.

The idea is that, once you got pregnant, the forces were such, and the challenge of raising a child is such that then you were tethered to this other person if this other person wasn’t a good person to be tethered to.

They’ve just changed and they were once the perfect person to be tethered to and aren’t anymore.

Now they’re an alcoholic, whatever the problem is that has come along. 

Life is a chaotic state of events.

I love the fact that someone bets that this person at age 30 is going to be wonderful at age 70. 

You’ll have as good luck finding someone you hate and see maybe 30 years later, you’ll be like, “There are a few things I like about this person.”

The work on arranged marriages suggests.

It’s a real Abraham Lincoln style dating. I mate with people that I don’t get along with as well.

Abraham Lincoln didn’t like the idea of being married in general. 

He would pick political adversaries as his advisor.

I agree with birth control, and it has improved as a technology for women. There are multiple forms of birth control and it can be better regulated in the sense that the side effects are down, but they’re still real. They’re just less of a side effect than a baby is, which is a huge side effect of having sex.

Think of what could be done in the future, now that people are paying attention to the many side effects and many problems of birth control, which is a worst madman-ish era where women’s feelings or hormones were at best a second thought. What could be created in the future to help with hormonal changes rather than worsen them? Who knows? It’s incredible.

We agree on that one. It’s huge. It’s about freedom, choice and mobility. For a lot of people, autonomy is often what drives single living that they don’t want to have to merge with others. I don’t think it’s a lack of social ability. The research bears this out. The singles are more connected.

I saw someone make this tweet that I like. It was something about how under-appreciated friend love is in our modern society. Speaking to you or any of my friends, or all of these female friends that I’m talking with all of the time. If I had a girlfriend now, I bet she would probably take issue with the friendships that I’ve formed at the bunch of females but they’re platonic interesting. It makes me not even want to be in a relationship again because it’s much better.

Married people have the one. Single people have the ones. I don’t call you for all of my problems. I call you for certain problems and things. This is a perfect segue into my next item on my list. That is a mobile phone.

You have some great picks, Pete. It’s everything. I called a couple of people in relation to this like one of my female friends who is not single but was living apart from their significant other for a period of time. I wanted to ask her what are just things that make living alone, not nothing to do with because dating apps that are going to come up but surviving alone. If you think about what life would be like as say a road comic back in the day, they used to have to find a payphone to get directions. It’s amazing to be out there to be the lone wolf. This is why they were like these cult heroes like, “Who is this person that travels around telling jokes and then every time they show up, they’re saying these naughty words and stuff?”

I think about this is that prior to the mobile phone, you needed a home base. The big invention when you had the home-based was the answering machine. The idea is there were times I would call Shane at his house and it would just ring. I guess I got to call him back later. At some point I get to call Shane, I get to leave him a message. He then would call me back and leave me a message. In order to get the message, I had to go back to my dorm room, my apartment, or my house. Maybe at some point, you were able to call in and get your messages. It never worked as well as promised. My point about the mobile phone is that now, I can get ahold of almost anyone anywhere as I need to, and if I need to get them on the phone, I can do that.

This was also like online, but I was also typing a lot of it on my phone. Me and a girl were flirting with some stranger on Instagram or whatever. There was this other girl that’s like a platonic thing I was talking with. I called my assistant, we had a chat about a few issues coming up, and this is all in the span of 30 minutes, almost an hour. I’m pretty much doing all of this, having a conversation with three different people, having three different social experiences at the same time, a flirtation dating thing, an interesting conversation with a different unrelated stranger, and then business with my coworker, all at the same time.

We can continue the obvious extensions of this to the ease in ordering food and connecting and so on. I launched an episode on digital nomad shit. You were talking about the lone wolf, these road comics. There are now people who don’t own a home. They don’t even own an apartment. You did this for a long time. 

I was doing it for fourteen years but I did it for one year officially. All my stuff in storage, I lived on the road. I loved it. When I first started doing it, I thought, “Maybe I’ll try this for three years and assess from there.” I can always pull the ripcord at any time. If I’m a month in and I’m like, “What the hell have I done?” I can pull the ripcord. It can be done in six months. It was the time of my life. It was amazing.

There’s this underlying element to what are the greatest innovations for singles, these are things that allow you to live on your own, to pursue autonomy, to not be tethered to a place, to lower your costs, and to give you the freedom to operate as you want to operate. What’s interesting is some of these things increase your social ability. Living in an apartment building increases your social ability because you see people at the pool, in the lobby, there’s the chance for connections and you get to know your neighbors and they become friends. There’s this interesting push-pull that’s happening that at the same time that you’re able to live on your own, it allows you to connect to people better. Moving into an assisted living facility and out of a home can help an elderly person thrive because they’re interacting with people or having meals with other people, but yet they still have the sanctity and pride of their own space. What do you have next on your list?

Let’s go back a little way. I like these deep time examples but also the most modern one that I can think of is everything food preservation-related from modern refrigeration to canning and things like that. All of the advancements in food preservation that have happened since the industrial revolution. I’m sure people, hunter-gatherers were trying things. The idea that you can have, even something like one of those wine pumps where you can be living by yourself and fill a glass of wine, but without having to drink the whole bottle, because otherwise, it’s going to waste. If I open it, I better drink the whole bottle. It doesn’t make that much sense for me in normal conditions to go to the grocery store and buy all of these different ingredients because I’m always on the move. One, I can have a bunch of things that store for a long time, and two, order food anytime that I want to. I have no more food dependence on the tribe.

I like wine pumps. For people who don’t know what he’s talking about, you can open a bottle of wine, you can pour yourself a glass and then you pump out the air, which is what will spoil it and preserve it for a day later in the week.

It lasts for another two days.

First of all, a bottle of wine is not built for a solo. A bottle of wine is built for two people. It’s two and a half glasses of wine, which is that’s about the limit that you should be having with another person anyway because too much alcohol is going to impair your performance anyways, gentlemen. You’re identifying an extension of a more general trend that we can connect back to capitalism and industrialization, which is, for example, the invention of the washing machine and the dryer.

Anything that strips away, LIBOR, errands, and preparation now allows you to break free of a familial structure in which one person is caring for a home and another person is caring about income. Now, allows you to do both, which is to create income and care for a home or an apartment, and to do so at lower costs, greater safety, less time, and to be able to then use your leisure time to flourish. It’s just not wasteful in the case that you’re saying. I have this happen sometimes where I buy something with the thought I’m going to prepare it and there’s an expiration date on it. I opened the fridge and I see that thing and it tortures me. I’m like, “I don’t want to waste it.”

The ability to be able to get any food you want any time you want is crazy. To have to be nice to the one guy in the tribe, because he’s the one that knows how to find whatever insect that is a good spice for this and that.

Some people know this and say, “This helps non-solos too.”

That’s why I was trying to think of things that help a solo person more but that’s not the case with a lot of these things. A lot of the examples that we have are things that a solo person would not be able to exist without these things whereas coupled up people would have existed in either environment with or without them.

I’m pumped up because I do think that technology often gets a bad rep. It’s imperfect and it sometimes causes problems or side effects if it allows people to break free of the existing structure. The other thing about it is, we were talking about communication and about that being an aspect of the industrial revolution, this show exists. The fact that like-minded single people are able to get the information I’ve launched a Slack channel. It’s invite-only now, but you can go to PeterMcGraw.org to the Solo page and apply. You can now communicate with members of the community around the ideas. What I would like people to do is to come to that forum with their ideas. What are the things that make a difference in your own life?

Another thing that’s been on my mind that I didn’t think of ahead of time, but in this conversation, it keeps on popping up in my head is the idea to have clubs. I’m sure there were always cliques and little tribes, friend groups, and everything else, but to be like, “I don’t like anything anyone does in my tribe. I’m going to go and find a completely different tribe whether that be the sports team, church, motorcycle, or chess club.” The ability to curate a social group in such a way with things like meetup is incredible. You could say the same thing about couples could do all the same thing.

Also, another part of this conversation is some of these things solos can do them more, solos have the freedom and the ability to use them more. The idea that you and I, I would say that I’m insecure about my level of success is measured by my social network. If I were to go back in time and say when I think a thing, thousands of people are interested in reading about a thought that I think while I was drunk and blowing off a little bit of steam, solo but with a cult is like something in our modern environment.

I’m a little bit emotional now because the way I have been thinking about this as I approached this show was what are the innovations that allow us to escape the conventional structure, to escape the relationship escalator and the familial structure. 

To take the good things that we like about the regular structure and minimize as many of the negative things.

What has happened in this conversation and that you said eloquently is that solo is built on several premises. One of the premises is that being single allows opportunity that the time, the energy and the money that might normally go to marriage with children can be used for other things.

You should start doing a children’s version of this for grade-schoolers to read. After this pandemic, you should go around and give talks to elementary school, middle school, and high school kids. This should be in part of a health class. It should be mandatory that there’s at least one class that’s dedicated to this other option.

That will never happen, it won’t have any time soon. 

I’m somewhat serious in a health class expressing this as an idea of a way that people not only can live but might enjoy more than other alternatives that aren’t for everybody and no one’s saying like, “Come on, the more singles over here, the better.”

It’s an alternative. This idea is that a lot of the things that we are doing, it’s not to escape it.

I think of all the people that have been through divorces already that are reading this blog and are like, “God damn, where was this insight many years ago?”

The licensing of it all. I do like this idea that it provides an opportunity for growth and to live your best life. As you were saying earlier, if you were part of a hunter-gatherer tribe, in some ways we were built for that. If you were a dreamer, an inventor, an artist, a poet, if you had an interest in hobbies that were not accepted by the group, you didn’t live your best life. The things that we’re talking about allowing people to customize their existence in a way that is extraordinary.

If I could advocate as I forward the idea that looking at life through a deep time, an evolutionary lens is not only an easy tool to use but in an underutilized one and under-known represented one. The reason why it’s important is also for the things that you need to be wary of as a solo person. Does it mean if you go your life now, not having any children, are there psychological mechanisms built where there might be some alarms going off once in a while, and you feel dissatisfied how it expresses itself as a general feeling of dissatisfaction that you can’t quite put your finger on? Imagine you could talk to all those different firings and stuff out there and all the different structures and be like, “New situation out there. We don’t need kids.”

“We don’t need to panic.” 

In the same way that knowing about something like the negativity bias is a useful tool in deciding how much of my negativity bias has utility now, and I should be fearful of a given threat. How much of it is an over perceiving a threat that’s limiting me from going and traveling more or meeting different people or what have you.

Let’s do a couple more then we’re to wrap up, and then we’ll talk about sex stuff for the bones.

Let’s go way deep time on that note speaking of lenses and things. I thought that this would be a fun one. A mirror that the ability to see your own reflection.

I’m making that Joe Rogan face. 

I remember you’re visiting me one day when I was living in Malibu, we had a beach workout or something. We’re walking down the beach, two friends that haven’t seen each other in a while and you got serious. You’re like, “Shane, there something that I need to tell you. It happened to me at a certain age when a friend had to pull me aside and point something out to me, and this is something friends do to one another.” I’m like, “What is this? What am I about to find out about myself?” You were like, “It’s time that you start trimming your ear hair.” The thing is that we don’t appreciate is compared to primates, I’ve told you this before, or maybe I joke about it, but it’s incredible.

I believe it was a recess monkey. In thinking about a theory of mind and mammal’s ability to understand that something else has a mind, and how do you measure that? One of the ways is, what can it recognize itself in the mirror and know that it’s it in the mirror? You paint a little red mark on its forehead and give it a mirror and if it looks like it connects that it’s them and like, “Why do I have this different thing on my head?” Dolphins can notice themselves in the mirror. Your dog never will, but because of the small size of its brain, they didn’t think that it would be able to recognize itself in the mirror, “Gentlemen, place your bets.”

They hand the rhesus monkey a mirror. It recognizes itself immediately goes for that little red painting. Within 30 seconds, it starts checking out its undercarriage. Take a look at those testicles, “I wonder what’s going on here.” It is hilarious. If you think about the ability to game the system, the ability to make yourself look different and look more attractive in what sexual selection would have done to humans the vanity that would have happened. Normally, Pete, if you and I were living in a tribe, we would be reliant on one another to tell each other about our ear hair and to tell each other about we have a booger hanging out of our nose. I imagine that was commonplace, but there were some jokes too from time to time.

Think of a mirror as a tool. Once you now have this tool that you can sit, stare, and you can tweak these about your hair that used to be this honest indicator, this fitness indicator. You could extend this and say cosmetics generally speaking, and who does it the most? Single people. What happens when someone gets a divorce? They join that gym. They set aside. There are no more pajamas. We’re spending a bunch more time in the mirror or we’re tweaking all of these different things. What has that done to even the shape of our facial hair, why we’re attracted to say breasts in the way that we are, all of these things could have had some weird feedback within the way in which sexual selection shaped us.

If I’m understanding this correctly, this is fascinating. What you’re saying is that a mirror allows you to improve your appeal to others without relying on others? 


I’m sure there’s data on this about how often people look at themselves in the mirror. It’s a striking amount that people do this. Now we have more than mirrors. Those phones allow us to take selfies. We’re now able to take a picture of ourselves, snap it, and optimize that appeal.

We can see what we would look like when we’re 90 maybe. We can see what we look like if we lost some weight or added some weight. We can see what we might look like if you and I had a baby together somehow.

Do you have another on your list? I’ll do one. 

I’m not even sure that I do because I did spend some time with the elephant in the room.

I love the mirror one. It takes a comedian to come up with mirror behavioral economists that come here with a mirror. Behavioral economists will come up with this one and I got this from Amy Gahran. She was a previous guest on The Relationship Escalator episode. That is the rise of the social safety net, Social Security in the United States, and universal healthcare in other countries where you don’t have to rely on a partner to have your most basic needs met.

Think of the wild chances that we can take. There are no trapeze artists without safety nets. If you don’t get to first have a safety net, you simply cannot train to be a trapeze artist and then eventually take that net out and do things at that level.

My last one, and some people might see this as frivolous, but I think that it’s real and it matters, that is the domestication of dogs and cats. While dog and cat ownership is higher with families, it’s been on the rise with singles. These numbers are striking that over 50% of singles and families have a domesticated cat.

What’s going on too in our modern era, we’re talking last several years modern. The vest of like, “Now I can take my pet anywhere. I can take my pet on the plane.” What have we even been saying about most of these great single inventions, “Look how much you can travel.” It was the case that there would have been a lot more single people earlier. Think about this one, how many single people would have had pets earlier in the past if they could have traveled with them and taken them around their little dog or whatever? How many more people would have been single or traveled more if they would have known that they could have an animal and do it?

I would add to that, which I agree with your thinking on this. A challenge of solo living can be loneliness. You want some intimacy, love, companionship, of course, you want it on your terms, which is part of the reason. You don’t always want it. One of the beautiful things about dogs and cats, and especially dogs, cats are more, you get it when they want it. With dogs, you get it when you want it. They are loved machines, that they adore you. There are no conditionals. They provide a form of intimacy and love. They help with social ability. People walk their dogs and it gets them out of the house and what do they do? They talk to other people who have dogs. People will never approach a stranger on the street and talk to them, but if they have a dog, people will walk up and pet a dog, and then consequently will strike up a conversation with this person. I see how much people adore their pets.

If I looked through this at a deep time, if you look at these the evolutionarily stable system, ESS, there’s this balanced system of a symbiotic relationship in the environment. There’s a lot of utility and the domestication of wolves in terms of maybe they were keeping other things away at the time. I don’t know enough about the evolution of the bonding and domestication of dogs that came along the way.

I do know this. It was early on in human history that dogs were domesticated.

Think about hunting dogs and stuff like that. They used to have this utility and now, not only a thing that isn’t has zero actual utility like that but can be a detriment. You can get a pug, a thing that’s mostly dying and needs your help throughout its entire life. It’s going to do nothing but cost you, but you get this lump of cuddles. This is another thing that’s incredibly new for solo people.

If you were to strike out on your own, back in the day, you would need a dog. Something that smells and hears a predator. Something that gets can scare with the predator.

You’ve got to watch this documentary, Happy People on Netflix, the Russian guy. It’s as solo as it gets. He goes into town once a year. It’s him, his ex and some dogs making their way out in the wilderness. It’s amazing. When I talk about utility, those things are his lifeline and everything else. You remember my little Don Nichols who was a freak of nature. That wouldn’t make it one day out in the wild that you can have as your little weird cuddle slave.

For those of you reading, with Shane’s ex, they both got a dog together named Don Nichols. Don Nichols was smaller than a gerbil and it was a dog.

He was a third the size of small that he was already supposed to be, which was already small.

The takeaway of this is that while pets might’ve started out to be utilitarian, you use them to hunt and for protection and so on. They then may still have some of those elements right there. Now you have the pocketbook dog or cats and they are there for hedonic purposes. They are there because of intimacy, love, and connection. One of the things that are striking we’ll end on this note, connecting it back is to the idea of grooming. One of the striking things about grooming is that it releases endorphins. Petting, picking nits, and so on, combing hair, releases endorphins to the animal being groomed and the animal, doing the grooming, which explains why a total stranger will walk up to a dog and start petting it. The dog will allow it to happen because both the dog and the person feel good as a result of doing that. Imagine having your own endorphin machine in your house and available to and you never have to worry about them.

The next time I see you with a dog, Pete, I want you to be okay with it licking you as much as it wants to because that’s just that dog grooming you back and you’re going to get lots of great endorphins from it.

This was great. For those of you who are part of the Solo community on the Slack channel, you’re going to have access to the bonus material where we talked about sex innovations. You have to apply and join the Solo community to get access to that. Shane, I want to say thank you for your time, your insights. 

Thank you. This is awesome.



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About Shane Mauss

SOLO 53 | Innovations For SinglesStand-up comedian, adventurer, and science enthusiast Shane Mauss has been interviewing scientists each week since 2014. Originally from La Crosse, Wisconsin this former factory worker skipped college to become a comedian. His stand up has been on Comedy Central, Conan, Kimmel, Showtime, and Epix. In the age of podcasting, more people might be familiar with him as a guest on Trussell, Holmes, Kreischer, Von, Maron, or Rogan. Compelled to talk about bigger ideas, he now travels to universities around the world (when there isn’t a pandemic) to interview researchers on a journey to learn what makes us who we are… as well as a bunch of other random stuff you never imagined you would care about. Favorite topics include: psychology, biology, evolution, cognitive biases, behavioral economics, mating, animal behavior, neuroscience, entheogens and consciousness.



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